Using the directory, or finding out a little bit about it first

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Victorian Turkish Baths: their origin, development, and gradual decline
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From here you can either find which  Turkish baths are still open today

Take-a-Turkish icon

or you can go to the lists of baths to discover the history of specific baths

What is included in the directory?

The directory consists of nineteen lists which, taken together, include the addresses of all Turkish baths so far identified in the British Isles, even though all but a few have long since closed.

Gradually, as more information is added to the site, each entry is being linked to its own descriptive article. Until then, most of the remaining entries are linked to chronologies, while a few simply show the first and last dates of any information known about them.

In addition to the Turkish baths in the British Isles, there are six checklists of some of the Victorian Turkish baths which were located overseas.

How were the baths discovered?

Many, but by no means all, of the six hundred plus establishments have been found in local directories such as Kelly's or Slater's. But while these have been extensively used, it is important to realise that they can never indicate all the establishments which ever existed.

Without going into a lengthy discussion about local and trade directories, it seems important to indicate some of the constraints which reduce the comprehensiveness of our lists, remembering also that it would not only be quite impossible achieve a complete list, but that such completeness would not necessarily add much to our overall picture.

The major constraints were:

a. it was only considered feasible to consult those directories which had a classified trades section—absent in many small town local directories;

b. most of the major directories were selective in what they included, and many streets in poorer areas were only partially listed, or even omitted;

c. many directories ceased publication during World War II and few continued for very long afterwards;

d.the major directories indicated, usually by means of an asterisk, which establishments were Turkish baths, or included them in their facilities—but not all of them were shown in this way just as, today, it is impossible to locate Turkish baths in Yellow pages directories.

Those wanting more detailed information on the limitations of directories will find much of interest in the first part of British directories: a bibliography and guide to directories published in England and Wales (1850-1950) and Scotland (1733-1950), by Gareth Shaw and Allison Tipper (Leicester Univ Pr, 1988).

Dating the baths

Evidence for the opening and closure dates of Turkish baths is difficult to come by and there are relatively few cases where a date can be said to be reasonably accurate. Contemporary newspapers, journals, council minutes, advertisements, and personal letters seem to provide the most verifiable dates. In the lists which follow, these are indicated by being shown in the same blue as that used for the text in the lists, eg, 1882—1890.

A date followed only by a dash, eg, 1862— indicates that it is not known how long an establishment survived.

All other dates are to be considered as individual sightings only, ie, there is documentary evidence that a Turkish bath existed at a specific location at around that time. Many of these sightings are from directories which are known to be dated ahead of their actual publication date. Often, the information in a specific directory was not completely revised for that particular edition. It was frequently incorrect in other ways. For example, the names of bath proprietors and managers were not always up-to-date, nor were they always spelled correctly.

In general, the first appearance of an establishment in a directory usually occurs some time after its actual opening; closures are often noticed after an even longer interval. These sightings are indicated in the lists by being shown in red type, eg, 1865—1869 or 1875—1917.

It sometimes appears that certain baths may have opened earlier, or survived later, than is suggested by our best sightings. The - and + signs are used to show this in the lists, but only if it is fairly certain that that this was actually the case: the minus sign indicates that the bath is known to have opened earlier than the first sighting; the plus sign indicates that the bath is known to have closed later than the last sighting. Some examples of such usage are: -1871—1902, 1879—1885+ and -1878—1883+.

Please can you help?

It should now be self-evident that the dating of Turkish baths on the website is in many cases sketchy in the extreme. There must, however, be many members of local history societies or family historians who know of the existence of such establishments and have easy access to collections of local history resources, especially local newspapers and council minutes.

Clearly, the website would benefit immeasurably if visitors to the site would let us know of any special knowledge they might have about Turkish baths in their area. Sightings earlier or later than dates in our lists would be especially helpful. And it would also be great if anyone was willing to search for items in their area—BUT do contact us first so we can save your time by telling you what is already included in our database, but not yet published on the website.

It goes without saying that any help received will be gratefully acknowledged on the website.

The site is called an information exchange because several helpers, especially family historians, have found that we are sometimes able to provide information which was new to them, and which is related to their own researches.

This page last updated 09 April 2020

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